Thomas Edward Lawrence was no ordinary man indeed, he was not a hero, but never a bad guy. He had an ego, but where Lawrence of Arabia is most successful is in its picture of Lawrence, as David Lean is not interested in making the man your typical Hollywood hero. David Lean is a man who is fascinated with the figure that Lawrence has left behind, and leaves a picture with honesty in regards to what he was like. Lean knows and understands what his character was like, from the many achievements and mistakes that he has made through all his life, and thus, what’s left behind is truly one of the most magical of experiences to be had with anything cinematic – this here exerts the true power of film.
As Lawrence of Arabia begins, we are shown our titular character, Thomas Edward Lawrence, upon the moment of his death inside of a motorcycle accident. With the manner in which Lawrence of Arabia is set up, this specific scene leaves an impact upon how we perceive the way the film ends. For what goes above three hours soon flashing back to the life of T.E. Lawrence presents what truly is one of the best portraits of character ever put on film. Not only is the film expertly detailing the unity between people, but at the same time a man’s ascent and descent within the army, a biopic that recognizes how Lawrence is indeed much like any of us, he is a flawed human being, much like any one of us. He is narcissistic, egotistical, but never is he uninteresting for Lean makes him a compelling figure.
Every moment in Lawrence of Arabia is as beautifully framed as the last, whether it range from the big moments that go through the desert to the smaller scenes in which we have the detailed conversations that go ahead and move the story much further along. There is never a single moment in which the film loses any sense of our own interest, for what David Lean achieves from beginning to end is undoubtedly filmmaking in the highest order. Lean guides these conversations to all these big moments with such ease and whether it range from the absolutely gorgeous cinematography to the stunning set pieces, there is always something in every frame of Lawrence of Arabia that is sure to leave a grand impression behind.
While we have big sequences coming around ranging from battles because of how excellently each and every last one of them is staged, there’s a reason to which these grand moments are made fascinating – it’s because of how perfectly well David Lean intends the structuring in which he weaves together the big scenes and the small. He is never overwhelmed with the large set pieces building up the big moments. In the small moments, Lean only continues to place more detail into what makes the characters what they are, and it’s his prime fascination with T.E. Lawrence that makes everything so effective, for Lawrence is a man who is overwhelmed with all the influence that he has, but at the very core, we recognize that he is still human. We see a moment in which Lawrence is forced to kill a man whom he has saved, and the reason it leaves a great impression is because David Lean together with screenwriter Robert Bolt maintain their interest with the characters in order to make the big moments all the more awe-inspiring.
Inside of his first big role, Peter O’Toole has never been any better than he was as T.E. Lawrence. O’Toole plays a character like T.E. Lawrence with such humanity in order to make the egotistic figure that he was all the more riveting. O’Toole plays such emotion into this character and thus he forms the very heart of Lawrence of Arabia, a single performance that cannot be found in any other film in such a manner like this. Together with the whole cast which Lean has assembled whether it be from the roles of those such as Anthony Quinn or Omar Sharif, there is always something worthy of one’s awe. Although I’m not in denial that casting Anthony Quinn or Alec Guinness in the roles of Arabs may be offensive to modern sensibilities, they still work so excellently in the performances it doesn’t matter anymore. No matter how big a part the actors may have played, there’s always an impression left by each and every last one of the performers it’s simply extraordinary.
You’ve heard many other people describe what makes Lawrence of Arabia the accomplishment that it is, it is an epic that utilizes every minute of its running time in order to tell a story of one of the most compelling figures we have come to know. Lawrence of Arabia is a film that simply will not get smaller over time for it is truly some of the best examples of filmmaking that can ever be found from any generation. This is a special film for which I have put off revisiting until I finally get my hands on the Blu-Ray, and when I revisited it then upon my ownership of a copy in said format, it was still as magical an experience as I remembered it was from my first viewing. When the chance comes, I want to witness such a wonderful accomplishment on the big screen, for I’m sure it will be a most overwhelming escapade.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Sony Pictures.
Directed by David Lean
Screenplay by Robert Bolt, Michael Wilson, from the autobiography by T.E. Lawrence
Produced by Sam Spiegel
Starring Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, José Ferrer, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, Arthur Kennedy, Omar Sharif, Peter O’Toole
Release Year: 1962
Running Time: 227 minutes